Refresh Valet are “the Uber for mobile car detailing” apparently. We interviewed Harrison Lingard and discovered how that works.
//SN: Tell us a bit about Refresh Valet. What’s the business about?
What Uber did for taxi’s, Refresh has done for mobile car detailing.
We’ve simply made it cheaper, and more convenient to get your car cleaned. No more complicated pricing structures or hidden charges. Our details are full and comprehensive inside & out for a flat rate of $59 for regular cars or $69 for SUV/4WD’s.
Just like Uber, you make a request through the app, and one of our Certified Refreshers will be out to detail your car in no time at all.
The way that we detail cars is also out of the ordinary.
All of our products are environmentally friendly and we save roughly 175 litres of water per detail. Our unique process doesn’t require power or water enabling us to detail cars at your home, your work, or literally anywhere. Our detailing techniques are also incredibly efficient allowing us to deliver a better result in less time, which saves our clients money.
We are also creating a completely new avenue of work for job seekers. We’re teaching people valuable new skills via our free comprehensive training program and then we operate on low margins so they earn well above what the average car wash/detailing position pays. By putting our Refreshers first, the clients see their enthusiasm for Refresh and our business grows.
//SN: What gave you the idea for it?
My business partner Chris & I have always wanted to create an app. Our thought was, since everyone has a phone, it’s super easy to communicate with anyone anywhere. So once you’ve built the app and it’s time to expand the business it’s not a huge task as the infrastructure is already there. When brainstorming ideas, we tried to identify a product or service that:
a) Is in a major industry that everyone needs – communication, transport, or food
b) Was a low cost so most people could afford it
c) Was a frequent expense or purchase, not just a one off.
d) Would disrupt an industry that is currently overpriced and inconvenient.
We quickly realised that everyone has a car, no one likes to clean it, it gets dirty every month, and it’s expensive to take it to get cleaned… Refresh Mobile Car Detailing was born!
//SN: When did you realise you were on to something that could work?
June last year when we first started dropping business cards in Osborne Park. The response was overwhelming. We were getting a ridiculous amount of word of mouth and we couldn’t clean the cars fast enough!
//SN: You tested the business without an app for six months? How did that work out?
In a few words, it was tough! Without the app it required a lot of manual co-ordination, as there wasn’t an out of the box solution so we had to run a laborious hybrid of multiple systems.
We often got stuck in the day to day running and couldn’t focus on growing the business. We hit a point where it wasn’t profitable to expand any more as the admin and tracking the quality of the jobs became too time consuming. Now the app gives us the data we need to know to keep the service a 5 star service.
//SN: What’s the goal for the app? How did you develop it?
The goal is to have the Refresh app in full force in every major city in Australia and eventually internationally as well.
It was designed, and tested here in Perth with the actual raw coding outsourced overseas.
Initially, we designed the app before we had cleaned any cars. As we started detailing over 200 cars a week, we began to understand what our clients needs were and altered the app accordingly. We have a huge list of features to enhance the Refresh experience even further that will be released over the next few months.
//SN: Did you get any investment, or are you bootstrapping all the way?
Lets just say we have been eating lots of rice, and there have been zero trips to Bali. We’ve sourced a small amount of funding that has covered parts of the app and some of the equipment but every cent has been re-invested since day one. Being on a small budget has actually worked in our favour. We’ve learnt several lessons now that would’ve proven fatal had we expanded too early with tons of funding. Being on a budget has also forced us to optimise our business squeezing down our costs and extracting every last cent of profit before going large scale.
//SN: What was your biggest or most painful learning experience so far?
Hiring the wrong people. We went through a few patches where we didn’t have enough staff to service the demand. We were under pressure to fill appointments and were still discovering who would be reliable and a good face for the business. Without us knowing, those hires let clients down and they left with a bad experience. It sucked because from day one we painstakingly did everything we could to ensure every client had the best experience possible.
//SN: What’s the plan for the next six months?
Up until now we’ve been holding off on mass expansion as we didn’t have our app.
Whilst we were waiting for it to arrive we’ve established training and marketing processes that allow for exponential growth and remain reliable no matter how large we become. Now that the app has delivered we plan on capturing everyone in the Perth market followed by a launch in the eastern states.
//SN: How can the startup community help?
Everyone that touches the service loves it. We just need to tell more people.
If other startups find our service valuable or are inspired by our mission, we would appreciate any mention or introduction we can get. Likewise we are always happy to help where we can.